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Religion and American PoliticsFrom the Colonial Period to the Present$
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Mark A. Noll and Luke E. Harlow

Print publication date: 2007

Print ISBN-13: 9780195317145

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: October 2011

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195317145.001.0001

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Rhetoric and Reality in the Early Republic: The Case of the Federalist Clergy

Rhetoric and Reality in the Early Republic: The Case of the Federalist Clergy

Chapter:
(p.64) (p.65) 3 Rhetoric and Reality in the Early Republic: The Case of the Federalist Clergy
Source:
Religion and American Politics
Author(s):

Harry S. Stout

Publisher:
Oxford University Press
DOI:10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195317145.003.0004

This chapter looks at the way elite clergymen in New England found themselves unable to control, or even to understand, the course of politics from the Revolution, which they thought they had sponsored as a product of orthodox Christian convictions, to the realities of the democratic new nation, which they regarded as far along the road to godless dissipation and excess. While the contradictions between America as a chosen nation and a godless republic are clear, the reasons for them are not. The discussion here suggests that if one is to understand the paradox of conflicting speech over the meaning of America, one must look beyond the early republic to the rhetorical world of the Puritans and see how they bequeathed to their New England descendants an identity as a Christian people that was blind to contrary facts and which quite literally reshaped current realities to fit traditional rhetorical ends.

Keywords:   elite clergymen, New England, American Revolution, orthodox Christian, democracy

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